14 December 2010

Money, money, money

I know it's been a long time since my last post, and I apologise profusely for this. The end of term in Cambridge has been somewhat manic, and the reading week that followed wasn't any quieter. Now, though, we have a chance to take things a little more easily for a while.

Whilst browsing around on Facebook, I stumbled across a fairly heated exchange about who had it hardest; a Christian Minister or a high-ranking executive. Words were exchanged about the number of hours worked and the availability of down-time from the respective jobs, but what struck me most profoundly was the different units of value being cited. Is it possible to compare the responsibility of managing multi-million pound budgets with the intense nature of pastoral responsibility for all the souls in a parish? I'm not sure it is.

It also got me thinking about money, and about the fact that money really does sit behind all aspects of modern life. The question 'can we afford it' is usually the first phase of any major life decision we might take; it was our first thought about moving to Cambridge for me to study. We speak of 'cost-benefit analysis' when making a corporate decision, and we speak of lifecycle costing or full economic cost in the worlds of private and public sector. This is so much a part of western life that has become normative and we no longer question it.

It saddens me that there will be more young people taking this type of approach to their university education from now on. Regardless of your position on fees, it's clear that there is more anxiety about student finance now than there has ever been in the past, and this can't be good. Whilst cost is important, so is opportunity, and so is equality; can we, and should we, put an economic price on either of those?

My final thought comes courtesy of the BBC website who feature an Oxford academic who is aiming to give away £1m over his lifetime. I won't retell the story, read it yourself. All I'll say is that this kind of effort is inspirational for me. I sometimes wonder how we'll get by on my grants from the church, but this example gives me hope. It also makes me look at our contemporary approach to Christmas with a certain amount of disgust. We're trying to do a cheap Christmas this year with a modest budget per-head, and it's really hard. It's hard for two reasons. Firstly because you really can't buy much for under £10, and secondly because there's so much expectation around Christmas that you're made to feel Scrooge-like if you don't push the boat out.

We don't seem to be able to exist without money, but it would be nice if it didn't have to be at the centre of all we think and do, at least for a little while.

29 November 2010

In support of the Lancaster wind turbine application

This is a post for those of you who live in, or care about, Lancaster - note you don't need to live there to be a part of this.

My former employer, Lancaster University, has made a further planning application to install a single wind turbine, right next to the busy six lane M6 motorway. The previous application was for two turbines, but that was rejected earlier in the year.

The proposed single turbine will produce about 20% of the university's electricity needs - that's a massive amount! If you want to read more about the proposals, look here. This kind of saving will have a significant positive impact on the carbon emissions of the university, and it will also help to make the university's 1960s campus a good deal more financially sustainable; as the biggest employer in the area, and during difficult financial times, these kinds of issues need to be considered as well.

My reason for posting on this topic is that if you feel strongly about this matter, I would urge you to go to the council website and leave a comment for the planners. Clearly, I would prefer it if your comments were supportive of the application, but you are, of course, free to say what you like.

Many of the objections to the last application claimed that the university was doing nothing else to save energy. That's rubbish! I worked in the Facilities Division, and I can assure you all that there are few issues further up the agenda than energy saving and environmental issues. You just need to look here to see how much is actually being done.

I know some people will be affected by this proposal, but I would happily live in their place! So much of this argument is aesthetic and subjective! The fact is, we really need to get moving on carbon reductions if we are to have any impact on climate change. If we keep saying no to good applications like this, we're never going to make any progress, and our grandchildren will not thank us.

Rant over. Essay to write. Greek to translate.

26 November 2010


I wish to mount a defence for the word 'nice'. When I was at school, we were often told that 'nice' didn't really mean anything, and that we should avoid using it in creative writing. To say something was nice was not really telling the reader anything; it was lacking in passion and expressiveness.

After years of avoiding the word, having been indoctrinated against it, I decided last night that I want to reclaim it. Our tutor group organised the community worship at Westcott last night, and one of the comments I heard afterwards was that it was a really nice service. Rather than challenge the person about their lack of passionate adjectives, I found that I really appreciated the comment. I think we'd inadvertently planned the service to be 'nice'. Creative use of lighting, simple yet wonderful music, a good preacher and a celebrant who beautifully sang the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer all made for a really nice atmosphere where I think people felt at home.

I think the mistake my English teacher may have made (many moons ago) was to assume that words like 'nice', 'great', 'superb', outstanding', 'terrible' and 'dreadful' are points along a single axis; that they are simply expressions of different quantities of goodness or badness. (She may, of course, have made the mistake of assuming that what she said in class would not be remembered by her students many years later.) My point is that the word 'nice' is on its own axis, and to describe something as nice can be the most appropriate description we can choose.

8 November 2010

A different world

As I cycled in to college today through foot deep drifts of orange and yellow leaves*, I reflected that though my life may be hectic at the moment, it's bliss in comparison to many others around the world. I was thinking particularly about those Christians in Iraq who are living in real fear for their physical safety following an eruption of violence and killing last week.

We talk all the time about the catholic or universal church, yet we feel so removed from our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world. It isn't easy to identify with those whose lives are so incredibly different to ours, but at times like this we ought to put our essay deadlines, church politics and even the spending review into perspective. We ought to mourn for our church's loss, at the same time praying for those who now have an impossible choice to make; to leave their home or to stay in a hostile environment. All because of what they believe. We really do live in a different world and we should remember how fortunate we are.

*My inner child made me go through the leaves whilst others carefully rode around them

1 November 2010

Remember to breathe

Life is busy at the present time, and the words of the title for this post summarise the mantra that a few of us are using. I don't know what it's like for single ordinands living in college, but for this married one who lives out of college, and has a young daughter, it's hard to get the balance right at the moment.

First there's the reading. Given that I'm reading for a Cambridge degree, there's an expectation that I will do a lot of reading. There are set texts, and then a multitude of more detailed ones for when you need to write an essay. It feels like, even were I to dedicate all my time to reading, there would still be more to do, and I would have missed all my lectures in finding time for all the reading.

Then there's the writing. The system here is to have lectures and supervisions. Lectures are straightforward, but supervisions are new to me (we always had seminars at Lancaster). In a supervision, one person writes a short essay, and the other members of the group produce plans for how they would have written the essay if they had drawn the short straw. I have two supervisions this week, and I'm writing the essay for each one (so I probably shouldn't be blogging).

Then there's praying. At Westcott, you'll be pleased to know we do a fair amount of this. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline are said in the house each weekday. Ordinands are expected to attend a good number of these, though there are some allowances for those with families, who may have some parental duties to discharge a couple of times a week.

Then there's family time, which happens just before bedtime and on weekends. Actually, that's an over-exaggeration. DrLanky and LittleLanky frequently come in to join me for lunch through the week. But I no longer have the chance to take responsibility for breakfast time in the Lanky household - I leave the house while the other Lankies are safely tucked up in bed.

Then there's the attachment parish. Mine is wonderful! Last night's task was a trip to the pub with all the people who used to go to Evensong before it became to small to be viable. Next week I will act as Deacon at the morning service. It actually feels like an oasis of calm for me at present. The incumbent knows what it's like for ordinands, and has realistic expectations of what we can do. Having said that, I need to start thinking about the advent service and planning a sermon series for the new year.

Then there's a social contextual placement. Mine is with a youth work charity, and I'll be in a school one afternoon per week working on a transitions programme for children who are finding the change from primary to secondary school a bit tough.

Then there's thinking. This tends to happen between the rest of the things mentioned. Sometimes during a bike ride across Cambridge.

Don't get me wrong. I feel very privileged to be here and to have this opportunity, but I find myself having to turn to my mantra on a daily basis right now. Remember to breathe.

22 October 2010

Settling in

This is the next in my series of update posts for those of you who are interested in what we've been up to since we left Lancashire. I've covered up until the move, so I'll try and update you on what's happened since.

We spent our first few days in the new house, with the help of my parents, cleaning, decorating and unpacking boxes. As always, though, the list of jobs was bigger than the time we had available. By the weekend, we were plunged into life at Westcott. the induction week started in a very civilised manner with afternoon tea, but from then onwards it got a little hectic. The programme was crammed with orientation talks, briefings, social events, and of course the offices. We certainly felt the strain of living out of college during the first week. My cycling muscles were slowly remembering what to do again, and DrLanky was pounding the pavements of north Cambridge with alarming frequency in a bid to provide us with some family time.

Since the selection of course options and the start of the timetable, things have settled somewhat. We're now getting into a bit of a routine, and it feels like life may actually be manageable again, but the first week or so was hard. My advice to anyone thinking of training for ministry would be to try very hard to put some space between your old job and your house move, and then some more space between your house move and the start of term. We have a thousand jobs that need doing in the house, and they will just have to wait because there's no time during the term.

20 October 2010

Inept herds

I'm quite proud of the fact that my trusty Marin Bolinas Ridge (bike) is still going strong nearly fourteen years after I bought it, but it's not sheer chance that this is the case. I'm not a maintenance freak who spends hours in the garage tinkering with gears and brakes, but I do realise the importance of looking after your bike; cleaning, occasional lubrication, adjustment of gears and brakes when required etc. I try to do enough to keep the bike functioning smoothly and reliably, and I haven't found the need for a mass of specialist tools or insider knowledge.

In Cambridge, it seems that cyclists wear their mechanical ineptitude like a badge! I've lost count of the number of times I've passed a bike with a rubbing brake pad, or a gearing problem. There are even more bikes in the city that look like they would struggle to move with a following breeze! What is it about such a cycling-mad city that makes people take their bikes for granted? Also, what is it that makes many cyclists feel they are visible to other road users at night-time when they make no effort to wear reflective materials or even to have lights on their bike?

I conclude that it's something to do with herd mentality. People feel artificially safe on their bikes because there are so many other cyclists about. It's the same with helmets, though there are more wearers in the city than I thought there would be.

On the plus side, I am enjoying cycling in a city where the cyclist commands more respect than I have experienced elsewhere. This is the positive side of the herd (for the cyclists), though I accept as a driver this is not necessarily good all round.

Rant over.

19 October 2010

I should be doing reading for tomorrow's lectures...

...but I just discovered that a fellow Westcott ordinand is a blogger. Hurrah! Here's a link.

A nice way to start the day

This was the view this morning as I arrived at Westcott House for Morning Prayer. The church spire is that of All Saints Church, a 'redundant' church which is kept open by the Churches Conservation Trust, and used by the Westcott community for services where the Chapel is too small for the congregation.

One of the nice things about 'commuting' in to College is that I often see beautiful things at silly times in the morning.

Anyway, off to morning prayer now. Have a good day. 

18 October 2010

Confused and concerned

I don't profess to be an expert on German politics, but I was surprised to see the comments from Chancellor Merkel in the press this weekend. The BBC gave a very balanced report about her speech, but I found myself more in sync with the coverage in this morning's Independent. Here's the headline: Weak Merkel stokes xenophobia as she fights for political survival. The Independent doesn't often go all hyperbolic, but I thought this was quite a stroppy headline for them. I agree with them too; I thought Merkel was meant to be a liberal conservative, but this story paints Germany in a bad light.

15 October 2010

The stress of the big move

Anyone who knows us personally will have realised that DrLanky and I possess a lot of stuff. Much of it in the form of books. So moving was always likely to be an intense experience, especially with LittleLanky on the scene, and me at work until just a few days before the move. And so it proved to be!

We had gone with the cheapest removal quote, but the firm had a good reputation, so we weren't worried at all. The estimator had visited the house and given his quotation like all the others. On the day, though, it transpired that too small a lorry had been allocated to the job. They couldn't fit all of our stuff on, and had to hire a second van to take the surplus. They had clearly underestimated the size of the job.

The hardest bit about this was the stress it caused all round. DrLanky was stressed and exhausted after having pulled an all-nighter, and the removal men were stressed as they saw their working day being stretched out before them.

The other difficulty was that we were still packing on the day. Because we had long ago outgrown the house, there was no room to pack until some of the stuff started to be removed. This meant that we relied heavily on a couple of friends (you know who you are). They took a huge amount of time to help us pack, and look after LittleLanky. They also provided the space and motivation for DrLanky to take a mid morning snooze to stop her from collapsing. Friends are a marvellous gift, and we are truly grateful for their help. Without them, we really wouldn't have managed.

We finally handed our keys back to the landlord late in the afternoon (we were meant to be underway by lunchtime). Thankfully the sedation administered to the cats in the morning was still effective, and we had a relatively smooth journey to Cambridge.

We met my parents at the house, and in the morning the removal van arrived to unload. That bit went quite smoothly, though they could have done with an extra person to make the job quicker. I have no problem with the people who actually came to do the work. They did grumble, but they soldiered on and got the job done. If the estimator had done his job better, everyone would have been happier!

Since then, a lot has happened. I'll try to find the time to say some more soon.

5 October 2010

Letting go

Apart from my very brief update of last week, the blog has been silent for the last couple of weeks. I've just caught up with all my blog reading, which I'd also neglected, and it seems a lot has happened in the world since my silence started.

Though it's only been a couple of weeks, our world has changed in a massive way since my posts from before we left Lancashire. I think this will be the first of a brief series of posts about the changes we've experienced, and the transition we've gone through in recent days and weeks.

In our summer pack of information from Westcott was a letter from the Principal. In it, he told us that we needed to start letting go of the communities that were sending us so that we could fully embrace the community which was waiting to welcome us. At the time, I remember thinking that that was a nice idea, but that we had a house to pack, a busy time at work, and a one-year-old to care for. Letting go was something we just couldn't do at the start of the summer.

As the move date got closer, it was still difficult to let go. I was working until the Friday before our move, and you can't really let go when you're still doing the 9 to 5.

The first point at which it became real that we had to 'let go' was when we commenced our programme of farewell parties and services at Lancaster. The morning service on our final Sunday was hard. It was hard to acknowledge that we needed to let go of Lancaster and the Chaplaincy, even though we knew we had to do it. It was hard to say goodbye to friends, knowing that we had made the active decision to move away. It was really hard! And it was hard to let go of the comfort of knowing Lancaster and the University.

I found myself remembering the words of Hedley Cousin (a former Methodist Chaplain at the University) to a departing cohort of undergraduates. He said that they should treasure the experience of being part of the Chaplaincy because it was unique, and they were unlikely to find anything else quite like it. Having finally left after 13 years, I am sure that he was right. We'll treasure our memories of the Chaplaincy Community, from our days as idealistic undergrads to our more relaxed days with the Postgrad Group. We'll miss the friends we've made more than anything, though many have booked our spare room already, and those friendships will continue despite the distance.

So we've finally let go of Lancaster. Going back to visit will be nice, and we'll do it often, but it won't be the same. There will be no 'home' for us there, apart from the homes of our friends with whom we hope to stay. It still feels odd, and as DrLanky put it the other day, there's still a dull ache within us at the thought of what we've left behind. But underpinning all of these feelings is the belief and hope in God's purpose for our lives. In a very real sense, we did not choose the path that has led us here. Rather, we were chosen. In giving our lives to this vocation, we've accepted that there will be pain and discomfort along the way, and we need to learn to deal with it in a positive way.

Next time I'll fill you in with some of the details about our removal experience - I bet you can't wait.

29 September 2010

I'm still here (a different here)

For those of you who may have thought I had expired in the tumult of removals and starting theological college, fear not! We landed safely in Cambridge and are starting to settle in. Moving house was hard, and since arriving in Cambridge, I have barely had a minute to spare. First with house decoration, and then the start of the Westcott induction programme; it's been a bit of a roller-coaster. Things are starting to settle now, and I will have some more time over the next few days, so yo may hear a little more from me. The only complication is that Sky are still working on connecting our house to the information superhighway, so my only internet access is in my study in Westcott.

That's all for now. Come back soon if you're interested in a more detailed analysis of the last couple of weeks. I'll try to get something up tomorrow.

10 September 2010

Last day

It's my last day at work today. I graduated from Lancaster in the summer of 2001, and apart from a short spell between jobs at St Martin's and at the University, I've been gainfully employed for all of that time. It feels very weird to be bringing such a significant phase of my life to a close.

There's one pile on my desk that needs to be sorted, and a spreadsheet I'd promised to finish, but apart from that, I'm done! Very, very odd!

9 September 2010

Quote of the day!

Archbishop Vincent Nichols 

In response to the critics of a Mass in Soho which is aimed at welcoming gay Catholics, Archbishop Nichols has issued a proper dressing down. He said:

"Anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for communion really ought to hold their tongue.”

Hear hear, Archbishop. Though it's a shame a special Mass is required to make gay Catholics feel able to attend.

Packers' Progress

No, I'm not referring to Green Bay's American Football team, I'm referring to Dr Lanky and myself. The last few evenings have been busy, with social engagements every night. We don't want to miss out on the last few social opportunities in Lancaster, but we also know that we need to get moving with the packing process, so we've been aiming to clear a bookcase per day by doing a late night packing flurry. Isn't it amazing how many boxes you need to pack up the contents of a bookcase!?

The good news is that just about all the books are packed now. Tonight's job is to clear the DVDs, videos and CDs, and at that point the remaining task starts to look managable.

The house is starting to look less like our home as it is gradually stripped of all our 'things'; it's sad and exciting at the same time. Though there's not much time for reflection when so much needs to be done in so short a timespan.

6 days (only 2 at work)

7 September 2010

A busy weekend

Last weekend was completely insane! We had five house guests, a meal with friends from the chaplaincy on Saturday, a farewell service at the Chaplaincy and a bring and share barbecue on the Sunday, finished off with Reflect. I meant to post about it yesterday, but I spent most of Monday trying to stay awake!

It's been a while since we had a weekend with lots of friends from the past visiting us, and it was great to do it again. It was notable, though, that life has changed in a massive way for some of us. The addition of small children puts a different emphasis on life, and bedtimes are a little more sensible than they used to be on similar weekends.

Another highlight of the weekend was our farewell service, which was the regular Chaplaincy (non-term-time) service with a liberal scattering of old faces who came back to wave us off. Since LittleLanky arrived, I've had a bit less to do with music in the morning services at Chaplaincy, and it was really good to team up with an old chaplaincy friend to plan and lead the music (with the accompaniment of RevKev on the guitar).

At this point I need to issue a **Blog Etiquette Warning**. I'm not usually one for posting the lyrics of songs and hymns on the blog, but I will do so shortly. Please turn away from the screen if you are offended by such things.

In worship, I find I am readily 'affected' by good music, and although Sunday wasn't necessarily a virtuoso performance, the final hymn was an emotional roller-coaster for me. We sang 'The Summons' by John Bell and Graham Maule from the Iona community. It's a hymn that I've always liked, despite the mauling (pardon the pun) it often gets by English organists and choirs, but on Sunday the words spoke to me in a spine tingling way that made it hard to sing - let alone lead.  If you don't know it, or need a reminder, here are the words:

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
It was one of those situations when the writer speaks so clearly and poignantly that it feels as though the words could have been commissioned for that particular service, and for me personally. I certainly felt that God was speaking through the words of Bell and Maule, directly to my family and me as we prepare to take a massive step into the unknown. The words reminded me that although we don't know the details of how the next few years will pan out, we're being sent as God's people, under God's care, and that the journey will be one of growth and incredible change. It might be scary, but it's good-scary!

The other high point of the weekend was the barbecue after the service. We were joined by friends and family, and the weather was great! We had a wonderful time in each other's company, and I'm very grateful to all the people who pitched in to help with setting up and cleaning away. It always seems to be the same selfless individuals who disappear into the kitchen, without a sound, to do the washing up. You know who you are, and so do we! We notice your service to others, and we appreciate it.

Seeing so many friends from past and present made me reflect on the fact that although we are moving from Lancaster, the friends we have will support us wherever we go. We've offered the use of our spare room in Cambridge to many people now, and we really hope that at least some of them take up the offer. Our house in Lancaster has been a happy house with a sometimes revolving door, and although it can be hard work to keep on top of sheet washing and furniture re-arrangements, I'd like that to continue as we move to Cambridge. We need to start with a housewarming party, perhaps to coincide with LittleLanky's first birthday in October.

8 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 September 2010

A Friday roundup

I don't think there's a law about the number of roundup posts one should post per week, but I felt the urge to do another one today.

Unbelievable Church - I've been thinking and reading a lot about the way our church culture and architecture affect our missional ability, and Bishop Nick Baines' post about the Expowal has got me thinking even more. He's discovered a remarkable community which meets in an odd building on a retail park: 
The church’s strapline is: “Eine unglaubliche Kirche” (“An unbelievable church”). Given that 5-600 people drive out there each Sunday (two services) or on a Wednesday evening, it seems to be scratching where these people are itching. They simply want to enable people to find, in a  community with others, that God can be encountered and life enjoyed. The realities of life are faced and people of all sorts welcomed. And nothing happens without food, drink and hospitality.
I want to believe - not in God (I'm reasonably sorted on that one) but in the latest attempt at a peace process for the Middle East. I'm by no means an expert on the politics of this part of the world, but what I do know is that the current situation is unsatisfactory to all parties. You'd think this would be a good reason to be optimistic about some improvement coming from the process, but I really can't see it. I hope and pray that I'm wrong.

An apple by any other name - I saw Rory Cellan-Jones' package on the 10 o'clock news last night, and I was underwhelmed by the so-called iPad killers. I've used an iPad at work and I've been impressed. It's quick, well designed and very tactile. As usual, Apple have thought long and hard about their materials and the ways in which the product will be used. In fact, it seems to me that Apple are one of few companies who do justice to their designers. They start with the users' needs and they build a product to fit these needs. From what I saw of the competition, the same is not true in their R&D departments. Either that, or the good design features get value-engineered out to ensure the price is lower than the iPad. Either way, the iPad is still on my wish list.

Last week at work - After today, I have 5 working days left at the university. Yay and Arrgh at the same time.

2 September 2010

A new colleague

A friend from school recently sent a message to me and to another of her friends. Both of us are due to start theological training in Cambridge in the coming weeks, and she thought that an introduction was due. Having chatted briefly on Facebook, I now see that a blog has appeared, and I thought it my duty to post about it here so you can check the accuracy of any of my Cambridge related posts with a third party. He and I are actually studying the same programme of study with the Cambridge Theological Federation - it's a small world.

The Mendip Nomad is his blogging identity, and you can find his blog here. As he's training for ministry in the Methodist church, it will be interesting to see the way our experiences compare.

Physics Genius Stephen Hawking has restated his previously stated position about the need for God in the process of creation in slightly different words, but with precisely the same conclusion

I posted last week about why I think one can defend the creation of a BBC religion editor, and the fuss about Stephen Hawking's 'u-turn' over the possible existence of God makes the point nicely.

Otherwise intelligent journalists (like John Humphreys on Radio 4 this morning) seem to turn into gibbering, incoherent numpties when they get near a religious news story*. The whole idea that Hawking has had a major turnaround in his beliefs is something with which the Church Mouse takes issue, and I'm inclined to agree with him:

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. [Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989]
Compare the quote from 1989 with the one which has caused the headlines today:
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
If anyone can spot a difference, please let Mouse know.

It occurs to me that a good religion editor in the BBC would have been called in here to make some sort of analysis, and they would hopefully have removed the spin and hyperbole from the BBC's coverage. They may even have offered some more incisive research into Hawking's position, and given a balanced and accurate rendering to the fact that 'Physics Genius Stephen Hawking has restated his previously stated position about the need for God in the process of creation in slightly different words, but with precisely the same conclusion'. Not such a snappy headline is it?

*I accept that's not entirley true - I enjoyed Humphreys' series of interviews about his own beliefs, but we can all use a bit of hyperbole occasionally

Update - Mark Vernon has a different angle on the issue here.

13 days

1 September 2010

Two weeks and counting

The consequence of having been in Lancaster for a relatively long time is that there are many people to whom we need to say 'farewell'. This week sees the kick-off of a succession of visits, meals and gatherings to mark our departure, and we're looking forward to seeing all the people - even though we're sad about leaving Lancaster. I suppose it's made slightly easier because many of the people who are coming to say goodbye have already left Lancaster or were never in Lancaster - so our relationships with them will not be changing when we move. Being part of the Chaplaincy has meant that many of our best friends have long since moved on, having completed their studies. Of course, there are a few who have hung around like we have too, and it will be sad to say goodbye to the Postgrad Group and Reflect regulars.

The difficult thing is that this flurry of social activity is, by necessity, at the time when we are preparing to leave. This is also the time when we need to be packing our things into boxes, so we hope our house-guests won't mind assisting us in this task when they arrive later today.

We also need to reduce the amount of food and drink that we have to transport in two weeks time, so they might have to help us with a small oversupply of beer and other beverages which have been taking up space in our spare room since a party in February.

14 days

31 August 2010

Tuesday roundup

As yesterday was a Bank Holiday, my semi-frequent Monday roundup didn't happen. Here's a Tuesday roundup instead.

KP Skipped - I worked hard for a crisp related pun there, and I think I got away with it. It turns out that the out of form Kevin Pietersen has been dropped for the upcoming Twenty20 games against Pakistan. I applaud the guts of the England selectors in leaving him out, but I can't help feeling that his downfall was brought about by his disastrous spell as England captain. Since then, he just hasn't seemed like the player he used to be. I expect the selectors had something to do with his ill-judged promotion, so they probably need to take a share of the responsibility for his current state. Announcing the news on Twitter in conjunction with an expletive probably wasn't the best move though KP.

Lies and corruption - Having posted recently about the higher moral standards in cricket (compared to other sports), I am very disappointed to see the revelations about the Pakistan cricket team. It's not the first time the sport has been rocked by a betting scandal, and I would think that the explosion of online spot-betting has made life very difficult for the ICC's anti-corruption people. It's such a shame that the Pakistan team seem to have so many problems at the moment, and I hope they return to their position as a top test team soon.

Looking forward - Matthew McMurray has broken a 2 month blogging gap with a catch-up post, and his post makes me look forward to my own training. He recounts some of the events from his current placement, and I find myself itching to get stuck in! 

Speaking in tongues - This week, the Chaplaincy has hosted an exchange trip. We are linked with chaplaincies at the Universities of Oulu (Finland) and Braunschweig (Germany). Each summer, a group of students visits one of the three countries, enabling them to experience church in another culture and life in another place. A few years ago we went to the Finnish leg of the exchange, and it was fantastic! This week we have a bunch of Finns and Germans with us, and on Sunday they joined us for worship. In the service there was one of those special moments. When we say the Lord's Prayer at Chaplaincy, we often encourage people to use their own language or version of the prayer, but usually you can hear a very dominant lead from the English-speakers. On Sunday, though, there was a definite feeling that we are an international church! The sound of the different languages together was one of those moments when it felt like we were doing it right for a change. All were welcome, and all languages were welcome. We shared together, and our collective experience was broadened. Tonight is the farewell party for the visitors, so we sheall drop in to say farewell.

15 days

27 August 2010

The final countdown

In exactly two weeks, I will be winding down for my last afternoon of work at the University. I've worked here for over three and a half years now, but our connections with the place go back to 1997 when I joined as an undergraduate student (DrLanky (though she wasn't a Dr or a Lanky at that time) came along in 1998). We've worshipped at the Chaplaincy Centre for the whole time, and we really feel like part of the University community.

As we get closer, it's dawning on me how strange it will be to move away from here. Lancaster is home in many ways, and it seems strange to be preparing to move to Cambridge for just two years.

Jante's tales of packing have made me realise that we really need to crack on with putting things in boxes this weekend. We keep having a go, but seem to stall after a seemingly pitiful effort. In a way it will be helpful if the bank holiday weekend is a washout - at least we wouldn't be tempted to venture out of the house much.

19 days

24 August 2010

Taking religion seriously

Bishop Nick Baines has an interesting post about the debate concerning the case for a 'religion editor' for the BBC. In my opnion, he (along with others) makes a strong case based on the need for interpretation and balanced consideration in the news. Through the economic meltdown, we have been treated to the wise, if irritatingly voiced, words of Robert Peston. He has helped us to understand what has been going on in a balanced way - we don't just have to believe the government or opposition hyperbole, and we don't have to wade through the broadsheets analysis. We simply tune into the Beeb and Robert will walk us through it.

The argument continues to say that, as religion is such a massive and influential phenomenon in the world, it makes no sense to ignore it. Even if we disagree with it, we cannot deny its existence or its prominance in society. Rather than taking the atheist position as the objective and scientific one, a religious editor would see this as one of many positions - not the de facto 'thinking person's' view of the world.

My only problem with any of this is that I don't think it is possible for anyone (let alone those in the media) to be completely objective. We're kidding ourselves if we think that Peston is completely without prejudice and bias - we are all prejudiced and biased.

This could be an argument against any kind of mediated news on the basis that it is all prejudiced. I don't think I can successfully defeat that one to my own satisfaction! In reality, though, we rely on mediated news and we always have. Newspapers, even the local ones, have a political slant. They filter out the things they don't consider to be newsworthy based on circulation figures and pre-existing prejudices.

And you can take it back a step further. When I go home tonight and tell DrLanky about my day at work, you can guarantee that I will present the edited highlights; I won't spend 8 hours recalling every trivial occurrance. I will edit the 'news' according to my own bias and prejudice, and according to what I think she will find interesting (sound familiar?). I'm not saying that I will lie, I will just edit the truth - we all do it; we can't avoid doing it! We just don't think about it.

In the end it comes down to trust. If you trust the person giving you the news, you trust that they will tell you the things you feel you need to know, without avoiding any interesting bits. You also trust that they will not distort the facts (though we all* exaggerate to some extent).

It's exactly the same with the news. We choose our news outlets by the way they fit with our world view. This is why I don't read the Sun and I don't watch Fox News - their versions of the truth doesn't seem to match the one that I observe in the world, so I choose to ignore them. Instead, I read the BBC news website and dip into the Indendent and Guardian for my news. They don't always match with my world view, but they get close most of the time.

Once this relationship of trust is established, the viewer can start to trust (to a certain extent) the content being presented, and as long as the editor continues to play ball, everyone is happy. Our trusted editor tells us what we need to know and filters out the uninteresting bits. They also bring to our attention the important things we may not have noticed, and as such they are an important part of the news infrastructure.

The reason I read my news in a few different places, though, is because I don't trust the BBC in the same way as I trust my wife. I feel the need to check up on them to see if they are being faithful. Many people don't do this, especially those who read the red-tops, and this is where the real power of the editor lies. Many people trust the news (from whatever source), and to have a religion editor who brings balance to religious stories would be very welcome. 

*pun intended

23 August 2010

Time is a strange thing

Today is the 14th working day before I leave the employ of Lancaster University (looking forward to the Bank Holiday). All of a sudden, my mindset has changed from 'just pottering along', to 'how am I going to fit all this in? Aaaargh!'.

That's partly because this week sees my last management team meeting; a meeting for which I do all the leg-work. I'm in the middle of preparing my last set of papers for this meeting, and even after 2 years, I forget just how much work is involved!

So on that note, back to work!

23 days - pictures off the walls and packed. Now need to fill the holes.

19 August 2010

Thursday roundup

I know my custom of late has been to post a Monday roundup, but on Monday I didn't have anything of interest to warrant it. Today, however, I'm bursting with interesting thoughts.

A night at the opera - Until Monday I had never been to an opera, so when the opportunity presented itself I was keen to explore. Heritage Opera were touring with a performance of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, and a number of folk from the postgrad group went along for a bit of 'culture'. Like many, I have been put off opera for a number of reasons: language, musical style, class association... Despite my prejudices, I really enjoyed it (the subtitles helped). The production was hardly lavish, with much evidence of Gaffer tape and improvised props, but I was impressed by the way in which the cast coped with the very limited performance area. The venue was Lancaster Castle, in an actual Court room - Shire Hall. The 'stage' was assembled over the desks where the clerks would sit in a court case (I think), and due to the imposing nature of the Gillow furniture, the space they had was sparse. In the end, the success of the performance hinged on the skill and talent of the performers, and I was blown away by the quality of the singing! I know Madame Butterfly is not hardcore opera, but I do feel like my prejudices have been successfully challenged by my night at the opera.

The ban is ended - Not that a hosepipe ban has made a lot of difference to folk during a very wet August in Lancashire. When the rain comes down like it has recently, there is certainly no need to water the garden. Anyway, it's good that the stocks are back up to normal levels.

The end of a winning run? - Matt Prior and Stuart Broad came to the rescue yesterday to avoid an embarassing collapse at the Oval. England have now gone a long time without suffering a Test defeat, and I did think we were going to see an end to this run until Prior came to the crease. What we need now are favourable seam bowling conditions and a repeat of the recent successes of the fast bowling attack. Either that or Swann will have to work some magic towards the end of the match. This is the kind of situation England need to come through if they are to have any hope of retaining the Ashes in Australia.

Changing times, changing Church? - Bosco Peters posts about a wedding he went to where the rite included promises between one of the spouses and the child of the other spouse. This made me think that we really need to look at our rites and liturgies in light of the situations we actually encounter in the Church, rather than naively clinging to an ill-remembered image of how it used to be. It makes perfect sense to me to add something like this to a marriage ceremony where one or other party already has children; it reinforces the value and importance of 'the family' in the Church and wider society, and it reassures people that the Church is not blind to the changes in society.

18 August 2010

Funny Cartoon

Thinking about college made me think about this cartoon by Dave Walker:

Annoying little jobs

Today has been a good day. I've had a list of annoying little jobs which I haven't got round to, and it's been growing as we approach our move date. Today was the day when I managed to send 5 important bits of communication, including our new tenancy agreement. It feels good to be making some progress!

Tonight's job is to make a decision on a cassock-alb which won't result in me looking like a Harry Potter character or a plonker (or both)! I keep having a daydream about turning up to a service in the Westcott chapel looking like a Albus Dumbledore (complete with beard). Needless to say, everyone points and laughs at me (in good Christian love, of course) and I snap out of the daydream with a shiver.

I've finally decided on J&M because of a number of personal recommendations. Now I just need to make a decision on overall style, collar/hood type and fabric. As the nice man from J&M told me, buying things like these for the first time is "something of a minefield". I agree. Why doesn't someone make it easier then?

17 August 2010

More Mac converts

I've spent the last couple of years trying to persuade my parents that they need to convert to an Apple Mac in place of their sorry succession of windows machines. Thanks to a modest windfall, they were in the market for a new computer and came to me for purchasing advice. 

They are now the proud owners of a lovely new MacBook Pro (15"). I just need to set up their user accounts tonight, and they're off! 

At least when they phone for computer support I'll have the same operating system in front of me. Also, hopefully they'll need a little less support once they've got past the initial PC to Mac acclimatisation. I know most people find MacOS to be more intuitive than WIndows (though Windows 7 is meant to be better than XP).

What do you get when you cross a drunken Swann with a trapped cat?

An amusing court case?

I know drink driving is no laughing matter, but in this case I do confess to a small titter. It appears that England spin bowler Graeme Swann was on his way to Asda to obtain screwdrivers to free his cat when he was stopped by the police. It seems he was over the alcohol limit at the time. 

Police interest was sparked not by his wayward driving, but by the presence of his flashy car in an area where there had been recent burglary incidents. From what I've read, the cat was fine in the end. 

29 days to go - contract on the house sorted out today.

14 August 2010

Obama sticks his neck out

I just saw that Barack Obama has voiced his support for the controversial new mosque close to the site of the world trade centre twin towers. (I'll add the link later)

This was a bold and brave move by the president, given the strength of feeling shown in the press. American politics seems to be incredibly populist, and he must know that he risks a massive amount of criticism from the right wing media outlets and their followers.

It's nice to see principles take precedence for a change.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

11 August 2010

One for Lancaster residents

Did you know the arrangements for waste collection have changed?

This page on the Council website tells you more... here's the condensed version:

The black box with red lid will be used for newspapers, cardboard, junk mail, telephone directories and other printed paper.

The green boxes with yellow lids will be used for plastic bottles, glass, foil and cans - these items do not need to be separated.

10 August 2010

Top of the charts (well nearly)

If you look carefully you'll see something quite unique in this screenshot from the ICC's player ranking page. No less than 3 England bowlers in the world top ten for Test cricket. A good summer with the ball (so far) has helped Swann, Anderson and Broad (sounds like a firm of solicitors) to boost their ratings considerably.

Conversely, a low scoring summer by modern standards means that most of our batsmen have remained static in the charts except for new boy Trott and the in-form Matt Prior.

Looking forward to the Ashes, only one Aussie bowler makes the Test top ten, but there are two of their batsmen in there. I can imagine that Swann may continue his run of form down-under, but I predict that Anderson and maybe Broad might struggle with the conditions. Perhaps it will be time for Finn to make his mark with that extra height.

9 August 2010

Žižek on charity

If you have 10 minutes to spare and are looking for something to think about, have a look at this graphical representation of some words from Slavoj Žižek. h/t Maggi Dawn for this one.

I have to admit that I hadn't heard of Slavoj Žižek until now, but I have a feeling I may have to read some more. I'm not sure I agree with him, but he does make a compelling argument that there is a hypocrisy at the centre of charitable giving. Hmmm.

Monday roundup

Cathedral goes green - I saw this story on the BBC news site. Congratulations to the congreration of Bradford Cathedral for acheiving this accreditation from the Eco-congregations organisation. This is the first I have heard about this ecumenical organisation. I think I will read some more.

Temper temper - One of the things I like about cricket is that, compared with some other sports, it is a civislised affair. There are many reasons for this, and I think one of them is that players get fined for incidents that, in other sports, would be seen as very minor. I think this 'sets the bar' for the players in terms of acceptable behaviour at a high level. Of course, the other thing that makes cricket the most civilised sport is that they stop for tea.

Good old Catholic tat - I missed this one last week from the Church Mouse. It seems that Mouse is somewhat underwhelmed by the range of 'tat' on offer to commemorate the visit of the Pope to the UK. Since visiting Malta a couple of years ago, my eyes have been opened to a whole realm of 'Catholic Tat' (it's a recognised proper noun phrase in the Lanky household), and I'm actually quite excited by the tat potential of a Papal visit. My favourite bits of Catholic Tat are the snow globes (depicting scenes where it never snows) and glow in the dark statues of Mary, just in case you feel you need a ghostly, luminous apparition when you wake up in the night. Unlike Mouse, I will be actively seeking a bit of Papal tat for the Lanky household.

Well done Pakistan - It was beginning to look like the current test series between England and Pakistan would be something of a whitewash. Whilst it is satisfying to see your own team in a dominant position, it's disappointing to see the opposition buckling so easily. It was good, then, to see a defiant lower order batting performance from Pakistan yesterday. England will face stern tests in unfavourable conditions when they go to Australia later in the year, and it's good that they are made to work a little harder than they have done of late.
The death of British film-making? - In an unlikely show of support for the UK film industry, Clint Eastwood has written to George Osborne about the proposed 'axing' of the UK Film Council. I know times are hard - we're even reassessing the merits of 'milk-snatching' - but I think it is a bit shortsighted to start hacking so brutally at some of our major cultural organisations. Without the UKFC, a large number of recent UK films would not have been shot, and our cultural life would be weaker for it.

6 August 2010

Farewell Freddie

One final thing for this week is that Michael Vaughan has cast doubt over the chances of Freddie Flintoff returning to the England camp following his injuiry and subsequent surgery. I have to say, I'm surprised that this isn't already the assumed position. I'm not doubting Flintoff's commitment or application to his rehabilitation, but when you look at the way the current England team is performing, I can't see why they would consider bringing him into the side (and I can't think who they'd leave out).

The reality is that Flintoff's peak passed a long time ago. I don't doubt that he was influential at various points during the last Ashes tour, but he hasn't managed to sustain high level performances for long enough to be a serious contender for even the shorter forms of the game, where we seem to be excelling at the moment.

So I agree with Vaughan. I think it's goodbye to Freddie as an England player, but 'welcome back' to Flintoff as  Lancashire player (when he isn't playing in the IPL).

Reflecting on Rev.

A lot has already been said about Rev. and I don't feel I need to go over old ground by repeating every comment I've read recently. The Guardian have carried an interesting round-up of opinions from real clergy, which I found interesting, and the Church Mouse links to a number of reviews in his Friday round-up.

There are four things I'd like to add:
  1. Please BBC can we have another series? We need more of this kind of thoughtful and relevant comedy, even if the licence fee gets slashed. This should be the 'bread and butter' of the BBC's comedy output.
  2. I liked Dibley at the time it was broadcast. It was good fun and lighthearted, and the characters were appealing, though not in the slightest realistic. The arrival of Rev. has made me realise that Dibley didn't actually do much for the church (I concede that it wasn't necessarily meant to). It was so far removed from reality, that it was just comedy. In my opinion, Rev. is in a different league. It still exaggerates and caricatures the people of the church, but the characters remain believable. And it isn't just the characters; the stories are very real to those of us in the church. The reality of the characters and the stories mean that we aren't just laughing at comedy, we're laughing at ourselves. With the best will in the world, most of us would struggle to say the same about Dibley.
  3. I thought the final episode was the best, though I know some found it a bit bleak and dark. For me it spoke about some of the hard realities about ministry (such that I appreciate them). I've known a number of clergy over the years who have had to resign following affairs, one of them very recently and quite close to home. As part of my preparation for selection, this was an area that I explored with my vocations advisor (not that I'm thinking about having an affair), and I came to realise that the clergy are human, and humans often err, sometimes significantly. It doesn't make it easy to come to terms with when it happens, but I think it's the only conclusion I can get to when I feel let-down and disappointed by the actions of those I respect. So Adam's attempt at flirtation with the headteacher (right under his wife's nose) was a part of the programme that made me think a bit! 
  4. I thought that the way the writers concluded the episode was a reminder of the gravity and responsibility of the priestly vocation, and an affirmation of my own vocation. Despite the best efforts of the world, we seem still to need God. And most of us still need someone to help us to find the space to approach him amongst the business of our lives; especially at the times in our lives when we are facing change. I suppose Rev. has confirmed to me the potential difficulties of the path I'm following, and it's affirmed my motivation to carry on despite those risks.

Rookie mistake

I posted recently about my problems with Google Analytics, and after much head scratching, I posted on the help forum. Within 1/2 an hour, a helpful and more knowledgable user pointed me in the right direction. It turns out my tracking code was lacking a very essential bit of information. I'm hoping that does the trick and I can get my data feed back again.

3 August 2010

Vexed by vestments

One of the things mentioned in my information pack from Westcott is that I should probably invest in some liturgical vestments:
Though not essential, it can be very useful to have some of your own liturgical garments while you are at Westcott... The most useful article by far is a white cassock alb.
Having done a spot of internet research, I am underwhelmed by the web efforts of the UK's vestment suppliers! I suppose I have been conditioned by Amazon.com and the like, to expect that all the product information I need will be immediately accesible online. This isn't the case with many of the suppliers I've looked at. On some sites there are very dated photos showing clergy in typical 'catalogue poses', on others there are hand drawn pictures of garments with no photographs. 

Am I asking for something unreasonable? If I'm to invest £100 in a garment, it would be nice if a bit of effort has been put into the webpage so I know what I'm getting for my money.

Of course, the alternative route will be to visit one of the suppliers to see the vestments 'in the flesh' and try some on. The problem is that there aren't any in our area. The nearest would be a branch of Wippells in Manchester - maybe I'll give them a try, though they are responsible for the photo above!

Are there any wearers of cassock-albs out there who might be able to give me some hints? I've never done this before.

2 August 2010

Monday roundup

Rev. is 'rather good' - According to the Guardian, the AB of C thinks the programme is 'rather good'. This is one of several issues on which the Archbishop agrees with me. I do hope that the people at the Beeb who hold the purse-strings will find a bit of funding to continue the show for another season - hopefully more.

An Englishman in Wisconsin - Some of you Lancaster types will know the identity of this serial blogger. He's started blogging again, and his British perspective on American culture is already evident. One for the blog list.

James Anderson does it again - After a robust performance against the Australians, Pakistan looked set to provide stern competition for a buoyant England side. In reality, a low scoring game and favourable swing conditions allowed Jimmy Anderson to produce stunning bowling figures of 11 for 71. Quite rightly, and modestly, he praised the slip fielders for their reliable hands. Anderson's stock has soared in the ICC rankings, and he now sits at his highest ever place in the test bowlers' rankings.

TV licence under fire - Rev. may not get a second season if the licence fee gets scrapped, as suggested by the Adam Smith Institute. I'm a fan of the Beeb, and I think the licence fee has given us the best broadcasting network in the world. I know the independents feel hard done to, but I look at the output from the various channels, and it's the BBC that gets my vote every time; I hardly ever watch ITV and Five (though C4 is quite good sometimes). It's the same with radio - no commercial operator would run Radio 3 or Radio 4, but where would we be without them?

Flying Bishops? - Thinking Anglicans and the Church Mouse report this story about a letter from 15 Anglo-Catholic Bishops. I'm not sure it says anything new or moves the argument along any. An interestng aside is that I recognise a number of signatories as current or former Blackburn Diocese clergy (there may be more who I don't recognise):  

Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn
Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley (formerly Bishop of Burnley)
Rt Revd John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley
Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham (formerly at a parish in Accrington and Chaplain to my High School when I was a student)
Rt Revd Robert Ladds (formerly at a parish in Preston before consecration as the Bishop of Whitby - now retired)

Hmmm, not sure what this says about my home diocese! 5 out of 15 is a significant proportion.

Moving on - I'm not the only one going to theological college in a few weeks. Jante has received her bundle of information from Cuddesdon, and is counting down the days. I have returned my batch of forms to Westcott, and am waiting for the final removal quote to arrive.

44 days - must start packing!

28 July 2010

No-one loves me (or so I thought)

When I first set up this blog, I decided I would keep track of visitors using the wonderful (and free) Google Analytics service. This has provided lots of wonderful information about how many visitors the site gets, and even where the visitors have come from. It tells me geographical information as well as data about referring sites. I find I can spend ages wondering who from Japan might have visited my blog!
I was a bit put out, then, when my latest visit to the site told me that I have only had one visitor per day for the last week! I'm not claiming that the blog gets millions of hits, but it's rare that I get only 1 visit in a day. So I began to piece together the facts of the situation... What happened on the blog about a week ago that might have affected the link between my blog and analytics? Hmmm... Might it be a change in the template, which resulted in the loss of a few lines of HTML code? Might those lines of code be responsible for getting the information to Google? Indeed.

I think I have fixed it now, so my ego will be restored when I check tomorrow and find that my thousands of regular readers haven't actually deserted me. Unless they actually have, and it's just a coincidence that I changed my template.

27 July 2010

Bring on the love!

As parents of a young child, DrLanky and I have been exposed to massive amounts of folk wisdom about how best to bring up LittleLanky. After much reading and reflection, we have stumbled into an approach called attachment parenting (championed by Dr Sears). It's good to read, then , that there is now more scientific evidence to support an approach which does not limit the affection you show to your child. In fact, this study seems to show that giving lots of affection to your child actually makes them more confident and able to deal with the stresses and strains of life. This is at the core of attachment parenting. 

So much of the advice we have been given by friends and family necessitates the imposition of artificial limts on affection, on the basis that 'they need to learn', or 'you don't want them to be too attached to you' or 'do you want her to be sleeping in your bed when she's a teenager?!'. We have chosen to reject this type of advice, because we feel that LittleLanky needs to be given emotional security from the beginning. We feel that she isn't actually an evil manipulator who's trying to manoeuvre her parents (as some 'experts' would have you believe), and that when she cries (which happens rarely), it's because something is wrong (even if we can't tell what is wrong). Some see the attachment approach as 'lazy parenting' that provides parenting difficulties down the line, but we believe and hope that a solid emotional start, where trust and affection flow in both directions, is what LittleLanky needs and deserves. It seems to be working so far, as LittleLanky is the most consistently contented baby I have ever come across. I expect some of that is her natural disposition, but I do think we learn most of our character traits rather than inheriting them in our DNA. So we can probably take an amount of credit for her cheeriness.

The problem with the attachment approach, though, is that a lot of people will feel that it is incompatible with a working life. It's difficult (not impossible) to continue with the attachment parenting principles if the mother has to return to work. Also, contrary to the 'lazy' description given by some, it can be really hard work to continue with some of the principles, even if the mother stays at home full-time to care for the child.

All this reflection on parenting makes me realise that there are two main lessons I have learnt so far as a parent. The first is that no-one is an authority on your child! The nearest you will find to this mythical creature is yourself, so be confident in your own instincts, and weigh up all the factors before you make your decisions.
The second lesson (which helps during the difficult times) is that with a child, everything is a phase. The good bits and the bad bits. 

50 days

26 July 2010

Oops, one more for the roundup

I watched the 1st episode of the new BBC Wales Sherlock Holmes series last night. It's no coincidence that BBC Wales are also responsible for Dr.Who - Lots of very similar production techniques, and a similar approach to an adjusted 'reality'. I wasn't sure I was going to like it, especially as I'm not particularly a fan of 'The Doctor', but I really enjoyed it! Sky series link has been engaged, and I look forward to the rest of the series. 

I've never got into the original books, and I can't comment on the authenticity of the characterisation or the suitability of the cast, but I did enjoy it.

51 days - 2 out of 3 quotes back from removal companies

Monday roundup

Some blogs I follow have a Friday roundup, but a lot seems to happen over over the weekend, and I don't have time to cover it all in full detail. So here's my first Monday roundup:

Corrupt Formula 1 - I'm not an F1 fan, and this is part of the reason why. Call me naive, but I thought the point of a competitive race was to see who comes across the line first, with all competitors having given their all to do so. Shame on Ferrari!

Howzat - There's an inherent risk involved in watching a cricket match live. If the batsman has a real heave, it's possible that you could be struck by the ball, wherever you are in the crowd. A couple of cricket fans at a Sussex game must have wondered what was going on when they saw a meteorite hurtling out of the sky in their direction! It landed just in front of them, and no-one was injured.

RIP Hurricane Higgins - After a battle with cancer, Alex Higgins has died. Snooker is a game where the exceptional characters stand out, and Higgins was one of these. I remember watching snooker on my grandparents' TV on a Saturday afternoon, and even as a child, I could see that Higgins had something extra. Why does it seem to be that the brightest stars in our culture are often troubled in their private lives?

BBC News app - I've been waiting for this for a long time, and finally it's here. I have to say, though, I'm not convinced. Of course, it's slick and quick, and I do like the streaming live news, but the selection of stories is too restrictive for my tastes. I like to ferret around on the BBC news website, so only being presented with the top stories isn't quite what I want. This is why I don't regularly watch TV news - it's too filtered.

Royal Flickr stream - You can't accuse the British Monarchy of not engaging with new media, and I think this Flickr stream is a good innovation for an institution that is seeking to maintain public support. Maybe the CofE should take note. I'm not suggesting a Synod Flickr stream or anything, but we don't see much like this from the CofE - another institution seeking to maintain public support.

CofE app - h/t to the Church Mouse for this one. Having just criticised the CofE for not engaging with the internet and new media, they have issued a new app called myDiocese. It's a good start, and it has the much requested daily prayer feed (thankyou!). I have, however, had contact with the developers over the formatting of the offices - they aren't very legible at the moment due to the formatting inherited from the CofE feed. I'm assured that they are working on this, so I'll look out for an update. The app is being developed by the folks behind the methodist app I have mentioned earlier. This is a good start, and I hope they continue to work on it. 

Fame for Newport - If you haven't already seen the internet phenomenon about Newport, you have to go and look. h/t to the whole internet community for this one - it's everywhere, and I can't list all of the places I've seen it!

23 July 2010

Feeling philosophical

Auguste Rodin's Le Penseur
For some reason, I've come over all philosophical about our impending upheaval. I don't mean in relation to the physical move or resettlement. Rather, I'm thinking about the change of mental pace I'm about to experience.

Whilst my current work is challenging in a number of delightful ways, it is rarely intellectually stimulating. In fact, the only time it is intellectually stimulating is when we have a disagreement in our management team meetings, and an 'argument' kicks off.  The mental manoeuvering reminds me of Philosphy seminars, when you would go into the room with firm conviction behind opinion A, and you would leave the room an hour later with a firm conviction behind opinion Z (having travelled through the whole alphabet on the way).

You can imagine, then, that I look forward with a mix of excitement and trepidation as I contemplate a 2 year degree in Theology (for Ministry). My degree was in Philosophy, but this is quite different from theology. And it was 9 years ago! I'm a bit worried that my mind has been dulled by the monotony of everyday working life, but I suppose I just have to work on the basis that it's a bit like riding a bike. 

I have tried to get myself prepared by doing a bit of reading, but as any parents among you will know, there is little spare time in a house where a 9 month old baby lives. I seem to get 4 or 5 pages into a book before having to start it again because I've left it too long before coming back to it.

As if by divine intervention, as I have been typing this post I have received an email from Westcott with a mammoth number of attachments (15 in total). One of these is a reading list which I would have hoped to have dented by now (but haven't). Looks like I'll have to stop procrastinating, and have a look at the email.

22 July 2010

All change, again

Following some constructive offline comments from DrLanky, I've gone for a change of colour scheme. I hope you approve.

The greatest bowler of all time?

Muttiah Muralitharan has reached the landmark of 800 test wickets in his final test match for Sri Lanka. This led me to ask a philosophical question about greatness: is greatness proportional to a quantum of success (like a number of wickets)?

As a cricket fan with a Sky Sports subscription (until September) I have watched the bowling of Murali on the TV many times. His action is unconventional, and has been subject to controversey and dispute over the years. His 'bent' arm makes his delivery look quite unique, and he has confused a great many batsmen (800 of them). This wicket-taking acheivement far outstrips his nearest rival (Shane Warne, 708 wickets), but I have to say that Shane Warne is the bowler I always preferred to watch.

One of the difficulties of equating greatness to a quantum of success is that the quantum under discussion is accrued over time. So someone with an extremely long career may end up with more wickets than someone with a shorter career. So why don't we look at the averages then? Well maybe that would be better than looking at the career total for wickets taken, but does that number adequately quantify the greatness of the bowler? Probably not.

It was Warne, not Murali, who dispatched Mike Gatting with 'the ball of the century', but is one ball enough to confer greatness? 

I suppose, in the end, greatness is in the eye of the beholder. What's beyond doubt is that many international batsmen will face the Sri Lankans with a little less anxiety than before.

21 July 2010

Good advice from the Vicar's wife

This is one for the future for DrLanky and me (and possibly LittleLanky). The Vicar's wife has posted 10 tips for clergy families to survive life in a parish setting. They all seem sensible, but I can imagine they're hard to implement at times!

Time for a change

Having come across a couple of new blogger-based blogs lately, I wondered where they had got their exciting templates from. Then I had a rummage on the dashboard and found a whole batch of new templates. This is one of them. Not sure about it yet - what do you think? An improvement or not? Please comment.

20 July 2010

Another 'last'

Following my earlier post, 'first of the lasts', I realised today that We have already been to our last term-time service at Chaplaincy. The character of the worship at Chaplaincy changes significantly during the vacation periods. Due to the smaller numbers and Chaplains' holidays, we adopt a pattern of weekly united services. I've talked about these before on the blog, but I'll recap the whole shooting match for any newcomers.
The chaplaincy building at Lancaster has 2 chapels. A Roman Catholic Chapel and an Anglican & Free Church Chapel. Sunday worship in the RC Chapel is simple: Mass every week (apart from when it's an AFC-led united service). In the AFC Chapel it's a bit more complicated. There's a mix of communion services, services of the word, student led services and united services. This means that it can sometimes feel a bit like lucky dip! The united services are a breed apart (but one I enjoy); I'll discuss these in a minute. 

For both chapels (apart from for united services) the Sunday morning service starts in the concourse area of the building (between the 2 chapels). 'Concourse' worship usually takes the form of an introduction, confession, a song and some notices with the Christian community all together. We then share the peace before moving into our distinct chapels.
For united worship, we all gather together in one or other chapel for the whole service. The united service is always communion - RC, CofE or Methodist - with arrangements in place for those who are not in communion with the celebrant's church to receive communion. It isn't neat, but then our various interdenominational differences make neatness a bit difficult when it comes to communion.

During the vacations, the default position is a united service, which actually feels really good after a busy term. We can all meet together to praise God, even if the practical arrangements for communion are clumsy. We all hear the same sermon and sing the same hymns, and we feel like a single worshipping community.

I love the united services, especially out of term-time. Maybe that's why I didn't note the last term-time service we attended. But there you go; another last for Lancaster - our last term-time AFC service.